According to Arthritis Care, around 12,000 children in the UK under the age of 16 have some form of arthritis. Being diagnosed with arthritis during childhood can be particularly difficult to deal with, as arthritis tends to be viewed as something that older people have. Children and young people with the condition may feel isolated – especially if it prevents them from taking part in sport or even just playing outdoors. As well as having to deal with the pain and disability arthritis can bring, they may also have to cope with the effects it has on their appearance.
Encourage your child to talk about their arthritis
Your child may find it difficult to tell others about their illness, but you can explain that, if they do talk about it, people will find it easier to understand them and their condition and be more aware of when to offer help and support. Suggest that it may help if they have a ‘rehearsed speech’ that they use when someone asks them what is wrong with them, or when they feel that it is right time to reveal that they have arthritis. It could explain a little about the illness and how it makes them feel. For example: ‘I have juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It’s a type of auto-immune disease that affects all of my joints and muscles and makes me feel achey and really tired.’
Children and young people with arthritis may feel depressed about having to deal with constant pain, and frustrated by the limitations that the condition imposes on them. Encouraging your child to talk openly about their feelings to you, family members, friends and teachers will help them to cope with their condition. It’s also worth contacting organisations that offer workshops, group meetings and online forums where your child can share their feelings with other sufferers, such as the Children’s Chronic Arthritis Association, Arthritis Care, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Youthhealthtalk.
Help your child to cope with arthritis at school
Coping with knee arthritis at school can be difficult. Children with arthritis may be absent from school a lot and may find it hard to catch up with their work. Even when they are able to attend school, they may find that symptoms such as pain and fatigue make it difficult for them to focus on their work. They may be unable to participate fully in PE lessons and even getting from one class to another may pose a problem. They may also experience bullying, which is another reason why it is important to encourage your child to communicate openly about their life and their feelings.